MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The South Florida woman convicted of kidnapping and child abuse in the case of missing 4-year-old foster child Rilya Wilson has been sentenced to 55 years in prison.
Prior to the sentencing, 67-year-old Geralyn Graham addressed the court for the very first time.
“It’s not my intention to make a bad situation worse. Your honor, despite what you have heard in this courtroom, Rilya is a very special child to me and I would never knowingly hurt her in anyway. I miss her and love her deeply,” stated Graham. “Regarding what was said about me, it hurt me to the depth of my soul to hear that anyone could think that I would do that to any child. I only tried to help Rilya. I love her too much to ever do anything to her.
Graham told the court she hoped to able to prove her innocence.
She went on, “I ask those who believe that I’ve done these things to forgive me and those who know in their hearts that I would never do these things to keep praying for me. The truth will come out. To you your honor, I simply ask for mercy.”
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When Graham was done, Circuit Judge Marisa Tinkler Mendez had some strong words for Graham.
“For you Miss Graham, the jury has spoken. You have been found to be the person responsible for the senseless, cruel and inhumane acts directed toward this innocent defenseless child Rilya Wilson. As the jury found, you are responsible for inflicting unimaginable pain and instilling fear in this child and for repeatedly abusing this child. One can only be inherently evil to inflict this type of pain and torment on a child. Rilya Wilson deserved nothing less than a loving, and nurturing environment, instead she lived in fear in a house of torture, fear and abuse. As the jury found Ms. Graham, and I what I believe you have done here is inexcusable,” stated Judge Tinkler Mendez.
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A moment later, she announced her sentence.
Graham received 30 years in prison for the kidnapping charge and 25 years in prison for the aggravated child abuse charge. Those two sentences will be served consecutively, or back to back. However, the judge also sentenced her to another 25 year sentence for a second aggravated child abuse charge and a 5 year sentence for child abuse but those sentences are to be served concurrently, or at the same time, as the other two counts.
Prosecutor Sally Weintraub asked for life in prison, plus 65 years while Graham’s defense attorney Michael Matters asked for 11.5 years
Jurors could not agree last month on her guilt or innocence on a murder charge, and prosecutors will not retry Graham on that count.
Jurors did, however, reach a unanimous decision on the other charges and convicted her of kidnapping, aggravated child abuse and child abuse.
Graham’s sentencing closes a case that spanned more than a decade since Rilya went missing in December 2000. Her disappearance wasn’t discovered for 15 months, leading to reform laws and a high-level shakeup within Florida’s child welfare agency.
The prosecution was complicated because Rilya’s body was never found and there were no witnesses.
Graham consistently denied harming the girl.
The state’s case relied on the testimony of three jailhouse snitches who said Graham made incriminating statements about Rilya.